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At Belleville's Skyview Drive-In, 'the virus has been a boon for business'

"We opened the weekend May 8 and had lines down the street. It was overwhelming."
Credit: SLBJ
Steve Bloomer, owner of Skyview Drive-In in Belleville.

BELLEVILLE, Ill. — With indoor theaters closed due to the pandemic, Belleville's Skyview Drive-In is the only show in town, and enjoying its curtain call.

"I hate to say it, but the virus has been a boon for business," owner Steve Bloomer said. "We opened the weekend May 8 and had lines down the street. It was overwhelming."

Drive-in theaters are one of the old-time family activities, such as board games and jigsaw puzzles, that have enjoyed a resurgence during the coronavirus shutdown.

"A lot of people who have never been to a drive-in are coming," Bloomer said. "Even with the rain Saturday night, we had 130 cars." The Skyview, with two screens, each showing a double feature, has a maximum capacity of 610 cars, though that has been reduced by half to assure distancing.

Adding to the demand, Bloomer said, "The kids haven't been in school, and parents are working from home and have more flexibility. People want to get out of the house."

Bloomer believes drive-in theaters will continue to thrive, at least for the foreseeable future. "Even though indoor theaters will be able to open soon, they will be playing the same movies we are and likely at 25% capacity," Bloomer said, "I saw a survey that said 72% of Americans will be reluctant to attend sporting events before a vaccine is found, and I think people will have a reluctance to go into a theater." 

Bloomer is operating the drive-in seven nights a week with 30 employees. That's a few more employees than normal because moviegoers can't go into the concession stand, requiring order takers and runners, and the restrooms and portable toilets are getting frequent bleach cleanings throughout each night. 

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